Far East(17)
Natalia, janitor, Birobidzhan

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is a person who thinks about his future, the future of his children, about prosperity. But our Russians think mostly about their own welfare.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I have done a patriotic act twice. Once I saved a kid, pulled him out of the water. Another time I helped a person to cope with his stress because of bad things happening in his family.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Today, no one likes our leader. But motherland isn’t synonymous with the government, of course. A motherland is a motherland, you were born here, your roots are here, your relatives. But a government is an absolutely different thing, in my opinion.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot might disagree with the government, of course. The government says one thing, but does another. I’m a person of principle; I don’t trust or agree with the authorities, ever.

Have you considered emigration?

I used to wish to leave Russia. But now I’ve got a lot of problems that I should solve here.

What do you think about migrants?

Migrants are choked here. Police, the courts, just won’t let them live here. That’s why I think it would be better for them to stay where they were born, where their roots are.

Pause
Sergei, bartender, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is a patriot, but maybe not in the sense that is usually attached to this word. It is not someone who shows off his or her love for the motherland. A patriot is someone who loves his or her country and does not even consider emigration. I suppose this is the main thing. People whom I can call real Russians are patriots in the sense that I have just described. However, Russians and citizens of the Russian Federation are not the same thing.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I think that truly patriotic acts can only be performed during crisis, military or other. I have performed, let us say, civic deeds, or, in other words, I have fulfilled my civic duty. I often witnessed incidents and voluntarily went to the police or to the traffic patrol to give statements in defense of those people who were right in those situations.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot can disagree with the authorities. Everyone understands the prosperity of his or her country differently. When people care about the well- being of their motherland, they will not necessarily agree with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

No, I do not think about emigration. I do not even want to leave my city. I think that I might be a patriot of my city rather than my country.

What do you think about migrants?

I share Angela Merkel’s opinion, who once said about migrant workers: “If you work decently, learn the language, then you are welcome. But if you rely on social welfare and do not accept our country’s way of life, then you are not welcome.” These people are guests in our country, and if they live according to our way of life without trying to impose their traditions, I am absolutely tolerant of them.

Pause
Maxim, financial advisor, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

To me, real Russians are, I think, Landau, Chekhov, Saltykov-Shchedrin. Those are the people who would be ashamed when our tanks come to a foreign land. Russian culture is unique in the sense that we might not only be happy (like most normal people) when our tanks come to a foreign land, but might also be ashamed of it. Russian language, Russian culture, some common mannerisms—all of these form a concept of a “Russian.” I can’t call myself a Russian (Russky). I’m Jewish, but I’m definitely a Russian because I’m a product of this culture. That is why, for me, real Russians are those intellectuals who are well known all over the world, and of whom Russia can be proud.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Several times a month I give interviews to local newspapers, and each interview becomes a patriotic act to me because I talk of things that I can’t stay silent about. But I’m constantly scared, to be honest. Owing to my roots, I understand that a word spoken is past recalling, so I’ll have to take responsibility for what I’m saying. For instance, when I’m asked whether car factories should be built here, and I know whose project that is and who talks about it on television, then I have to answer, “No, we don’t need that, because it’s bad for the region, for its people.” So here is such a small [form of] patriotism. I don’t feel any pride about it, I only feel fear about it, but I just can’t not speak out the truth.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of your motherland and love of your government are contradicting things. In Russia, state and motherland have always been like yin and yang. This was clear during all of the Russian revolutions.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

n Russia, being a patriot almost always means disagreeing with the authorities. There’s only one nuance: if the government tells you that you should dig a canal, then being a patriot means digging a canal and at the same time saying that it does not need to be dug here. Because Russian patriotism is always about the future, about children and grandchildren. This means, yes, the government does something very bad, and yes, they are wrong, but we are complying not for the [sake of the] government, but for our children and grandchildren, for everyone who will live here next. There are two simple variants, usually: you either agree with the powers and dig the canal, or you disagree and don’t dig the canal. But in Russia everything is different: you might disagree with the powers but you still dig the canal—not because they told you to do so, but because you assume it to be important. So the government is there, and you are there, separately.

Have you considered emigration?

I’d eagerly emigrate to the States if I had an opportunity to work there. Not because it’s bad for me here, but because when I participated in an election campaign there, I saw that these mechanisms really work there, albeit with some problems. One can really influence the life of his country there; you don’t have to constantly win against something. I could emigrate even with the loss of money, respect, living standards, and more—just for the feeling of being a free person.

What do you think about migrants?

The inflow of migrants is a natural process. Slave-owning economics is rather unprofitable for a country but very profitable for a slave owner, because slaves always work badly and produce little product, but at the same time, you can do anything you want with them. Russia has become a real slave-owing, feudalistic country with the arrival of Tadjiks, Uzbeks, and other migrants. I feel really ashamed around these people for what is happening to them here because, like I said, I’m ready to leave for a smaller piece of steak, in order to remain a man with human dignity. It bitters me to see how people sell their dignity, turning into actual slaves, just because they can eat and dress better here or because they can drink alcohol here. And it bitters me to know that their children also will be slaves, and their grandchildren, too, because a slave’s psychology outlives slavery itself for many years. But I really desire for Russia to become a country of free, worthy people who are capable of joking about the government and themselves, capable of building and creating. Slaves are a torn-away piece for many generations.

Pause
Olga Mikhailovna, retired high school teacher, Jewish Autonomous Region

What makes someone a real Russian?

I think that a real Russian is an ordinary person, a hard worker who brings value to his motherland and doesn’t sin.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I haven’t done anything patriotic. I think that a patriotic act is when people gave their lives during the years of the Great Patriotic War, when they sacrifice their lives during times hard for their country. And meanwhile, we all just work within the limits of our law, of our conscience.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

We are all grown-up people, so we understand that love of your motherland and love of your government are not the same thing. Love of a government is a dubious concept in itself. Does it even exist? In Japan, they say that if the people don’t know who governs the country, then it means that everything is fine in the country and in the life of its people.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot might disagree with the government, of course.

Have you considered emigration?

I don’t want to emigrate myself, but I think there should be no borders on our planet anymore. We should all travel where we want and communicate with people from all over the world.

What do you think about migrants?

We’ve got migrant workers in our village of Priamursky. Those are ordinary people who’ve got very low incomes and who wish to support their families, so for God’s sake—let them work! As long as they don’t violate the law, as long as they stay tolerant towards others, I feel fine about them. The only question is why we give out our job vacancies to migrants. But I think that if a person, an ordinary Russian, possesses a desire to work, he’ll always find a job and earn some money.

Pause
Lyudmila Andreevna, 58, street cleaner, Birobidzhan

What makes someone a real Russian?

I think of a real Russian as an ethnic Russian. Even if he’s Armenian. For instance, my father is Ukrainian, my mother is Polish, and I’m Russian, because I was born here.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

My patriotic act is to keep my district clean.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of motherland is different from love of government. Motherland is motherland; one could really give his soul for it, his life. But what is a government? I was fighting my government for rent invoices, for example.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

You can of course be a patriot and disagree with the government. I disagree with the authorities about many things.

Have you considered emigration?

I haven’t thought about leaving Russia.

What do you think about migrants?

I personally think, if they work, let them work. My husband and son are both builders, and they are not pleased that many Chinese workers came, so there are no jobs. But I tell them, “My dear, if Russians would work like they used to work when I was young! I began to work at fourteen, but look at the youth now: there’s no one to work. So migrants come.”

Pause
Lera, fashion blogger, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is one who is capable of openly admitting his and his country’s vices. You can boast about your patriotism and close your eyes upon what’s really happening for as long as you wish. But you can also sincerely laugh at it, as at your own flaws—and at the same time remain a person who loves himself and his country while openly admitting that some things should still be worked on.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I didn’t attend the protests. I don’t know if congratulating veterans who live in your district can be called a patriotic act. In fact, patriotic acts were done during the war (WWII). I think that today, most of the people who commit so-called patriotic acts are just busy with self-promotion. They are very distantly connected with patriotism.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of your motherland and love of your government are absolutely different things. Very often we try to explain some of our flaws and problems by saying that it was the government that did something wrong, that a fish rots from the head down. But it’s not like that. If we began to pick up our litter in the streets, if we had astronomical fees for littering, like in Singapore, our life would become a lot better.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot might disagree with the government. Moreover, this happens in 90 percent of the cases.

Have you considered emigration?

I’d like to leave, but not because I dislike my country—I just want something more. I think that changing from one Russian city to another just makes things even-Steven. That is, if you’re running from rudeness at the passport office, from bribery amongst road policemen, from some other features of a genuinely Russian mentality, then it would be really useless to exchange Vladivostok for Moscow. You’ll face the same things there, but in Moscow everything will be more expensive and you’ll spend more time stuck in the traffic. If you want to escape from all those things I’ve named, you should change countries. And I’m inclined towards Asia more and more often. Maybe because it’s closer and I travel there a lot. I’m even ready to study Chinese. Lots of my friends have moved to China, Singapore, Thailand. Some own their own businesses, some got married (not necessarily to Asians—there are many expatriates there), and they all live well. So far, my favorite city in the word is Shanghai.

What do you think about migrants?

If they live in Uzbekistan and earn $100 per month, then, of course, the $500 that they can earn when they come here is a huge sum of money for them. We all rebel against the fact that the jobs of janitors, builders, and post-office workers are occupied by citizens of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and other former Soviet republics who live poor lives in their countries. But Russians simply don’t want to work at ordinary jobs: we’ve only got lawyers, economists, promoters, designers, photographers, bloggers—anyone you like.

Pause

My image of a real Russian is of a man who drinks vodka, works at a factory, and talks to a TV-set.

 

Alexander, 39, geography teacher and botanist, Khabarovsk

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is someone who lives in Russia and has Russian citizenship.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

This sounds pompous, but I believe that I have done many patriotic things. Any demonstration of support for human rights is a patriotic deed. All environmental rallies I participated in were patriotic acts. Even some pompous phrases that I say during my geography lessons or my university lectures, including the silly statement “I will teach you to love your motherland” that I make at the beginning of the regional ethnography course, are patriotic acts.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love for the motherland and for the government are different things. They are two different things.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course, a patriot can disagree with the government. Moreover, I think that today this is usually the case.

Have you considered emigration?

I believe everyone considers emigration. Sometimes circumstances, let us say, make me consider this option, but I dismiss the thought.

What do you think about migrants?

What is my attitude toward migrants? They are welcome, our country is big. What else can I say? I wish all to work out for them here.

Pause
Natalia, singer, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

I love Russia very much, but I haven’t got very nice feelings about the [typical] Russian. He’s very aggressive, angry, and envious. I believe that there are lots of genuinely talented, strong people, beautiful in every sense of the word. But why is there so much aggressiveness and anger? I face it rather often. I mean, a real Russian is sort of a very angry, self-contained, and closed person. Russians are afraid of their own thoughts, afraid to be open, to talk about some private things. And this leads to all other problems.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I’ve hardly done a pro-Russia patriotic act. But if you take patriotism to mean not love of your motherland, but love of people—then yes, I have. Because people are the main component of a country, of the world.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of motherland and love of government are different things. A state is state borders, sovereignty, government, the president, some social norms. But each person has got his own understanding of what a motherland is. Some think that motherland is your land, some think it’s the people who populate this land, memories connected with them. For me, the motherland is the periods of my life, people who surrounded me, places. This feeling has got nothing to do with the government.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course a patriot might disagree with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

I emigrated from Russia a very long time ago, at the age when one doesn’t think about such things. I moved when I was seven years old, studied at school in England until I turned sixteen, and then moved to New York.

What do you think about migrants?

If people need to survive somehow, and it’s better for them here, then I feel fine about it. There is no way to prevent this, and I don’t even know if one should.

Pause
Emma Vasilievna, geologist, Khabarovsk

What makes someone a real Russian?

I think there is no such notion as a “real Russian.” . . . There are, however, some common traits. First of all, they show a constant complacency but at the same the ability to concentrate at the right moment. I also think that every Russian, even the worst drunkard, has a very strong sense of internal patriotism, a sense of the motherland. First it was the slogan “For the Czar and for Russia!”, then “For the motherland! For Stalin!” and this one is etched in everyone’s soul, including mine. We are now experiencing a patriotic uplift in connection with Crimea: we will not abandon our brothers! The same thing happened during the events in Yugoslavia. If people only could, they would all have volunteered then! On the other hand, I am only talking about ethnic Russians, because I cannot say what patriotism is for Jews or Tatars. But judging by how World War II united people, they too share this feeling—everyone on Earth shares it.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I was little when the war broke out. When I was young, I worked hard for my motherland, I worked with heroism: we would write to the Komsomol Committee, asking them to send us to the most difficult sites [to work]—to the Baikal–Amur Mainline or to the Virgin Lands Program. This probably was my patriotic deed. But in general, people manifest their love for the motherland under some force-majeure circumstances.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love for the motherland and for the state are, of course, different things. I do not equate the motherland with the government. But when the government is already chosen, it should work for the duration of its term.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

It is absolutely natural for a patriot to disagree with the government. However, this will not affect the authorities.

Have you considered emigration?

Neither I nor my children have considered emigration. I do not want to go anywhere—not to China, not to the United States, not to Germany. I do not even want to visit other countries.

What do you think about migrants?

I feel sorry for migrants: their life at home is hard, and so they come to our country, poor, desolate people. If they like it here, let them come and work, let them unite into communities, because this is easier than trying to manage one by one. I do not think this should be a problem. If there are extra jobs, let migrants take them. On the other hand, I am concerned about employers—they should only hire migrants if they have a surplus of jobs. The unemployment rate in our country is low, but it still exists. Russians, however, do not want to accept low-wage jobs: they know their worth.

Pause
Galina, executive recruiter, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

What is a real Russian? The first people who come to mind are writers—Chekhov, for example.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

Yes, I believe I have done patriotic things. I have traveled quite a lot abroad, and in discussions, conversations, and in personal communication I have always tried to show through my behavior what we, Russians, are.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Of course, love for the motherland and for the government are not the same thing. Governments change, the motherland does not.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

You can be a patriot and disagree with the government. For example, in the late Soviet period, in the 1980s, it was obvious that ideology was completely at odds with life, and many disagreed with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

I do not think about emigrating. My husband is from Estonia, he has got family in Tallinn. After college we were thinking about where to live and work, and I spent a year in Tallinn. I then felt all too well what it meant to be a foreigner. Although we had good opportunities and job offers, I realized that this was not for me, that I would be more comfortable living among Russians.

What do you think about migrants?

I think it would be hard without migrants because they are an objective necessity. These people find themselves on the labor market and do work for which we have no hands. Besides, qualified people come as well.

Pause
Andrei, sailor, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

What is a real Russian? What is that supposed to mean? How do you determine who is a real Russian and who is not? We are all real Russians.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I have not really performed any patriotic deeds, but I have never stood aside either.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love for the motherland and love for the state are definitely two different things.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

You can be a patriot and disagree with the government.

Have you considered emigration?

I have never thought about leaving Russia.

What do you think about migrants?

I have a positive attitude toward migrants who really come to our country for work. But if they come for other purposes, we have enough people as it is.

Pause
Ilya, software engineer, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

I suppose a real Russian is someone who considers Russia his or her motherland, someone who likes living here. I think someone who lives in a different country cannot be considered Russian. A person can be an ethnic Russian and live in a different country, but in order to be Russian, he or she has to live in Russia.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I have experienced patriotic emotions, but I do not think I have ever performed any patriotic deeds.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love for the motherland and for the government are not the same thing. As a matter of fact, I do not understand what love for the government is. I do understand what love for the motherland is, but not for the government.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

I think that people can and should disagree with the authorities.

Have you considered emigration?

I have thought about emigration, but I have not yet seriously considered the idea of moving anywhere.

What do you think about migrants?

On a case-by-case basis, I do not care if someone comes to Russia. But in general, I do not much like it when you come along the street and see more migrants than locals. I have nothing against migrants, but in general I do not really like this picture.

Pause
Sergei, fisherman, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

Everyone understands the notion of a real Russian in his or her own way. In a generally accepted sense of the term, a real Russian is someone who loves his or her motherland and is proud of it.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

No, I do not think I have ever performed any patriotic deeds.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love for the motherland and for the state are of course two different things.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

A patriot can disagree with the government. In fact, this has recently been the case.

Have you considered emigration?

I have not thought about leaving Russia. But I have been abroad—to China, Korea, Japan.

What do you think about migrants?

Migrants are different—there are good ones and bad ones. However, if they cannot succeed in their own countries, then in most cases these people are not really wanted here either.

Pause

We were supposed to spend a month in Vietnam, but after the first two weeks we longed for those Russian birch trees and for the language. We found Russian TV channels and watched them, although I never watch those at home. I felt so warm at heart, and I realized that it would probably be hard to emigrate.

 

Tatiana, entrepreneur, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

In my opinion, Professor Muldashev, ophthalmologist, director of the Russian Eye and Plastic Surgery Center in Ufa, is a real Russian. He is a one-of-a-kind human being. He operates around the world, performs unique surgeries, does mountain climbing. I consider him a real Russian.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I do patriotic acts on a daily basis. For example, we have recently purchased medical equipment to allow early diagnosis of breast cancer in women of our city. This will be a social project: in my medical center, this procedure will be extremely cheap, despite the enormous cost of the equipment.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

I am a citizen of the world, and I do not understand what the motherland is. We are all in the same boat, and today’s globalization prevents me from seeing Russia as an isolated country. In other words, I am as much concerned about Burmese women whose children can be taken away by the regime as I am about women in some remote Russian village who are unable to defend themselves against men who choose to use their own kitchens as a boxing ring.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

I have no idea if you can be a patriot and disagree with the government—I am apolitical in this respect. I think that patriotism, as such, can only exist with regard to the entire planet. I am not a patriot of any specific country—I worry about all the people in the world.

Have you considered emigration?

I do not live in any country full-time. I am currently dividing my time between Korea, Thailand, and Singapore. I am living on planes, in a manner of speaking. And I know for sure that in 50 years, the world will become just one big common boat. It already is, we just have not realized it yet. It is not about patriotism that we should talk, but about preserving the ecosystem for our children in the context of the entire planet Earth and not just one specific country.

What do you think about migrants?

I do not care what race people are provided that they work well. My kids’ nanny, a Filipino woman, is doing a good job. What difference does it make what language she speaks? The same can be said about any Tajik who is a good construction worker, for example. Thank goodness he came! I will be very glad if he obtains a residence permit, because these people want to work, they are doing their best for their families in order to provide educational opportunities to their children, as well as opportunities to have a holiday and work decently. And when a government or a people start a genocide of newcomers because migrants provide quality work for less money, the only reason for them doing this is laziness, because they just do not want to get off their asses, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Pause
Anna Ivanovna, 73, retired engineer, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

A real Russian is someone who loves Russia or was born here. I think that love for one’s motherland is akin to love for one’s mother. There is after all only one mother, regardless of whether she is good or bad, a drunken hag or just awesome.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I might have done something patriotic in the past. I cannot remember. I am not suffering from megalomania, and I never boast, but I would give the shirt off my back to a good person.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of the motherland and of the state are, of course, different things. The motherland is the motherland—there has always been and will only ever be one motherland, whereas governments change.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Of course a patriot can disagree with the government. There was no such thing as bribery before: people just worked and were rewarded according to their work. Times have changed, however.

Have you considered emigration?

I have never thought about leaving Russia. If I had to, I would walk back to my motherland. No other country can compare to the motherland. My city, Chelyabinsk, is like a mother to me.

What do you think about migrants?

I treat migrants on a case-toby-case basis depending on their objective and on what sort of people they are. There are decent people among the migrants. Some people come to Russia to earn some money, while others come to just visit the country.

Pause
Roman, executive recruiter, Vladivostok

What makes someone a real Russian?

I guess a real Russian is one who is proud to live in Russia, connects his life and the lives of people close to him with this country, [and] wishes it prosperity and well-being.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I used to commit patriotic, pro-Russian acts, even if I wasn’t thinking about it. In 1992, when Estonia split from the USSR and became sort of a counterbalance to our country, the population was divided into two groups: Russians, and those who were against Russia (in this case those were Estonians). In that situation I was amongst those who stood for the interests of the Russian side.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

I think that love of your motherland and love of your government are fundamentally different things. Love of your motherland has nothing to do with your attitude towards government.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

Naturally, a patriot might disagree with the government. I think there are many such people in Russia now.

Have you considered emigration?

I’ve been thinking about emigration for a very long time, since before 1992 even.

What do you think about migrants?

Migration is a standard process. As a whole, I’ve got no problems with it. But another matter is that migrants should follow the laws and behave according to the rules, norms, and traditions of the country to which they come. I mean, migration should be done legally.

Pause
Alexei, 33, construction worker, Birobidzhan

What makes someone a real Russian?

I think we have no real, ethnic Russian here. Everyone comes from somewhere: they leave their roots and come here to settle down.

Have you done anything Patriotic? What do you think an act of patriotism is?

I might have done omething patriotic at some point, but I don’t remember. We grew up in the USSR; our whole understanding of life was different then. We were brought up differently, not like the modern youth.

Is it one and the same thing to love the motherland and to love the government?

Love of motherland and of government are absolutely different things. Government is [made up of] the bosses who sit there up high. What do they do for Russia? Nothing. Or maybe just a few individuals do something. But Russia is one big country; we live here, raise our children here.

Can a patriot disagree with the government?

I think one can be a patriot and disagree with the government. You might have one opinion, and the authorities another.

Have you considered emigration?

Lately, we’ve been thinking constantly of leaving. I don’t know about going abroad, but we’ve been thinking about the Krasnodar region. It’s easier to get a job there, and it’s also warmer.

What do you think about migrants?

I feel fine towards migrants; we are all people. Just like them, we go somewhere, earn money just to survive—so why not [them too]? The important thing is to keep everything within the limits of the law.

Pause